July 10, 2008

No Ifs, Ands Or Butts


Good morning and greetings, photo fans. As we are all aware, time is flying by. Unless, of course, you’re locked up in solitary confinement at a fancy resort like San Quentin. Then, perhaps, time is not moving quite as rapidly as it does for the rest of the general and major population. In the words of Mick Jagger, “Tiiiime is on my side, yes it it.” I’m wondering if he meant the left or right?

I’ve been shooting digital photos since 2005. However, not to be negative, there was a time that I was using a process called film. I realized the other day as I searched through my photo albums looking for a picture that I ultimately couldn’t find that I have been taking shots of the sites and mounds of the westside and north coast for many years. I was amazed at how far back the archives went. No, I’m not talking cavemen rubbing two sticks together at sunset but West Cliff Drive in the 70′s. Today’s shots are from the days of yesteryear when negatives were the positive. Unfortunately, I have managed to permanently misplace many of them but who knew at the time that I’d ever need those extra dendrites.

I call the opening shot of the sunrise at Lighthouse Point “First Light.” Then it’s moving on to the lone cypress tree on West Cliff for an image I refer to as “Sky on Fire.” Then it’s your classic rainbow over the cypress tree from the same location. As we move to the evening hours we come upon a cloud convention taken from Stockton Avenue. And here’s the beauty of it all. Shots two (Sky on Fire) and four (sunset clouds) were taken the same day-it’s the ultimate daily double, Jeopardy fans, the double dip of sunrise and sunset from the same day (November 17, 2005.) It’s a westside classic. Then it’s onto to the coral salmon sand at dusk at Natural Bridges followed by another sunset that if I had been wearing any would have knocked my socks off.

Some of these pictures are smoking hot, and that leads us into today’s laugh and learn segment. As it turns out, offering a cigarette is as common as a handshake in Egypt, where the culture of smoking is so entrenched that patients sometimes light up in hospital rooms. You know you’re in trouble when your surgeon walks into the room puffing away on a Newport or Pall Mall. Or as the much-trafficked Stevie Winwood would say, “Light up or leave me alone.”

But now the government is getting serious about the health risks, beginning a campaign of visual warnings about tobacco’s dangers. And to show just how seriously they are taking this issue, smoking is no longer allowed in the emergency rooms or in the hospital ICU units, just in the general population areas. Furthermore, patients are no longer allowed to smoke during certain surgeries. No longer will we hear the doctor request, “Scalpel, gauze, ashtray.”

Starting August 1, cigarette labels in Egypt will be required to carry images of the effects of smoking: a dying man in an oxygen mask, a coughing child, the Marlboro Man in an oxygen tent, Joe Camel’s funeral and a limp cigarette symbolizing impotence.

It is a major step in Egypt’s fledgling anti-smoking campaign and a dramatic change in a country where public discussion of smoking’s health risks and NHL hockey are nearly nonexistent. The impotence image may have a particularly strong effect on Egyptians as well the dachshund not entering the tunnel and a pharaoh not being able to climb the old pyramid.

The photo of the limp cigarette comes with the warning that “long-term smoking has an effect on marital relations” – a somewhat milder version than the European Union has recommended for its member countries, which states directly that smoking causes impotence and shows a discontented young married couple sitting apart in bed watching Dr. Phil.

Twelve countries, including Canada, Jordan, Bird, Magic, Brazil and Thailand require graphic photos of the effects of smoking to be printed on cigarette packs. Many have reported success in at least reminding smokers of all the fun associated with lung cancer and emphysema. But the campaign faces a tough challenge among Egypt’s totally addicted, mummy-loving, smoke ring blowing citizens.

Egypt is one of the top 15 smoking countries in the world and they are not referring to supermodels sunbathing in the parks of downtown Cairo. Nearly 60 percent of all adult males in the country of 79 million people use tobacco in some form, compared with 24 percent of men in the United States. This might have been what Deep Purple was referring to when they sang “Smoke on the water, fire in the Nile.”

While anti-smoking campaigns have been in place for decades in the West, the issue has not even been on the agenda in Egypt or the Middle East. According to the American Cancer Society, in the 1990s, when smoking in the developed world declined, it increased 8.6 percent in this region. They were actually going for a double digit increase but ran out of Bic lighters.

So here’s Egypt’s master plan. A month ago, the country’s tobacco control department was launched, though it consists of only two people in a closet-sized office with no telephones and an annual budget of just $12,500. They also have a printer with no ribbon, a fax machine but no paper and a Omar Sharif autographed hookah for office and holiday parties.

For the new label requirements, authorities field-tested a variety of images. They found that warnings linking tobacco with death were not particularly effective with Egyptians, because dying is perceived as inevitable anyway. Hopefully the same theory doesn’t hold true with showering. Also, images of diseased lungs left people confused about what was being shown as many perceived it to be a tar and nicotine party.

Instead, the new warnings focus on threats to health and, particularly, to family, like the effect on children and pregnant women and the risk of impotence. “We need something to give the smokers a shock that they are in great danger,” said Dr. Mohammed Mehrez, head of the tobacco control department. I’m with you, Doc. I believe it all comes down to the words of “The Honeymooner’s” Ralph Kramden when asked by his pal Ed Norton, “Mind if I smoke?” Replied Ralph, “I don’t care if you burn.”

That’s our health news for the week. Tune in again Monday when we’ll go back in the time tunnel and check out some more classic photos from when I was still dealing with film hesitation. Now, I click away like Madonna at a Kabala retreat in the Catskills. So have a beautiful weekend, enjoy the colors of the cliff and let’s hope the fires fade in California. Aloha, mahalo, thank you firefighters and I’m outta here.


  1. Wow, that was long! Very funny though. I liked the Jordan, Bird, and Magic countries. Great photos!

    Comment by Jason Kidd — July 12, 2008 @ 4:46 pm

  2. I love the honeymooners
    line at the end,”I don’t care if you burn!”
    I love photo 2 and 3!

    Comment by Aimee — July 15, 2008 @ 5:28 pm

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